12 Jun 2011

Mini Reviews: 12/06/2011

While we may not always have the time to review all the comics we get every week, we do try and provide a snapshot of the latest releases, mixing the good with the not so good.

Writer: Owen Wiseman & Michael Benaroya
Art: Nam Kim, Matthew Dalton & Sakti Yuwono
Image $1.00

Stewart R: With Image’s recent run of debut issues coming in at full price it’s a little surprising to see the one dollar card played with Samurai’s Blood, but I’m very pleased to say that the reduced cover price is no indication of any reduction in quality. This opening chapter details the betrayal and fall of the Sanjo Clan as they are hunted down and wiped from the face of the Earth in brutal fashion while three young teenagers of that clan are unaware of the tragedy heading straight for them. There’s already an interesting dynamic brewing between Jun, Katashi and Mayuko as their friendship, individual statuses and gender differences seem set to throw up some intriguing storytelling as they struggle to survive the decimation of the world they’ve known and grown up in. Wiseman has wisely added an air of mystery in this first chapter which should also help to make this a real page-turner as the series progresses. The art from Kim, Dalton and Yuwono is simple yet dynamic and delivers blood-letting action without going over the top. For a $1 effort this is certainly unmissable. 9/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Doug Braithwaite & Ulises Arreola
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Three issues in and this is quickly turning into one of Marvel's best superhero titles and yes, so far it's surpassing its sibling book, The Mighty Thor. Whereas that series appears to be (understandably) going for the big, epic action approach, Journey at this point is keeping things on a relatively smaller scale as young Loki creeps around behind the scenes, weaving his Machiavellian plots while ensuring the wool is pulled firmly over his fellow Asgardians’ eyes. He seems less malicious in his new guise but his trademark craftiness is still present and correct. Gillen has a brilliant grasp of the character and, indeed, Asgard as a whole - he's certainly grown by leaps and bounds as a writer of this particular set of characters since he first took over Thor following Straczynski’s departure. Braithwaite, an artist who doesn't always get the credit he deserves considering some of the projects he's been involved with - see the likes of Justice and Earth X - conjures some impressive visuals, his bold figure work and dense landscapes beautifully coloured in soft tones by Arreola. If there was ever any doubt that we required two books on the stands focused on Asgard, Journey Into Mystery has well and truly extinguished it. Superb. 9/10

Writer: Jon Price
Art: Rebekah Isaacs & Charlie Kirchoff
12-Gauge Comics $3.99

Stewart R: And so we reach the finale of this series but as it turns out this is likely to be Volume 1 of an ongoing story as Price leaves the ending teasingly open. What he provides us with here is a nice line in magically involved jailbreaks as Darius and Lena find themselves in the clutches of Dr Fox who’s looking to permanently put an end to the presence of the arcane recently released into the world. Meanwhile Danae, Ben and Father Swain find themselves caught within their own prison of sorts and Price does well to make sure that we get to see how both situations are resolved and in doing so provides us with some much needed background info on Ben and Darius which may make things more interesting when we get to Volume 2. I wasn’t fully convinced that I was going to end up getting all five parts after a slightly slow and focused start but Price has done well to expand the scope of the story at the right times, ensuring that there has been good chemistry or antagonism between some of the main characters and kept the plot suitably filled with mystery and that is exemplified here. The art from Isaacs has been impressive and Tom P’s praise for her work previously is well merited it would seem. More please. 8/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Sean Murphy & Dave Stewart
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: I made my first issue of American Vampire my book of the week and I appear to be repeating that trend for this spin-off. Once again I have to say I'm continually amazed at how Scott Snyder has got me enjoying a genre I thought I would never touch with an Edward Cullen standee! This miniseries focuses on Felcia Book - agent of the Vassals - as she's given a mission inside Nazi-occupied Romania to extract a possible cure for Vampirism. It's very much a set-up chapter but these ingredients and the characterisation that is rapidly becoming Snyder's trademark make this a great read. In a week where there are books from my two favourite current creators (Snyder & Jeff Lemire) what has swung the vote for Survival of the Fittest is the superb artwork of Sean Murphy - his art on Joe the Barbarian was outstanding and he's continuing that great work here. If you haven't dived into the world of American Vampire yet, this 5-issue miniseries will be the perfect introduction, and my fangs grow sharp at the prospect of Nazis (the favourite villains of the Paradox Comics Group) and a mahoosive castle next month! 8/10

Writer: Ian Flynn
Art: Patrick ‘Spaz’ Spaziante, Rick Bryant & Matt Herms
Archie Comics $2.99

Stewart R: So the 8-bit-infused comic spectacular rolls on and this second chapter of the Let The Games Begin arc shows that Ian Flynn is keeping this highly readable for a younger audience but at the same time developing Rock’s morale conflict as he’s forced to fight and destroy his own kind for the sake of the greater good. With a character from an action-platform game the temptation could be to just dive into the action and allow that to be spectacle enough to drag the story along but adding this extra emotional level to the explosive events elevates this promising comic above your run-of-the-mill adaptations. The art from Spaziante, Bryant and Herms is once again top drawer with some very cool use of panel layout to keep things varied and frenetic through the various Robot Master confrontations. This is lining up to be a mega series for Mega Man fans old and new! 8/10

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Manuel Garcia, Michel Lacombe & Mark Pennington
Marvel/MAX $3.99

Matt C: Let's make a note of this Kyle Higgins chap then, shall we? I wasn't familiar with his name before he appeared on the writing credits alongside Scott Snyder for the newly debuted Batman: Gates Of Gotham mini, but based on the quality of that and now this, it seems he may have a fair bit of talent up his sleeves. I was impressed with this first issue but wasn't quite bowled over - this is probably more down to my unfamiliarity with the Supreme Power universe since Straczynski exited rather than any faults on the storytelling front though. When Straczynski rebooted the concept in a MAX title it was gripping, daring and utterly compulsive. It lost a bit of its appeal when it was downgraded from MAX, with Straczynski seeming to lose interest before departing, and the last time I checked in was for the woeful Ultimate Power series. From what I can gather, since then Hyperion went nuts and was eventually taken down leaving Doctor Spectrum as the preeminent US superhero. He's currently facing questions along the lines of, 'If Hyperion lost the plot, what's to stop you doing the same?' It's not a notion he can brush off with ease. This is the kind of mature, modern approach to the superhero paradigm that made Straczynski’s series a success, so it's good to see it treated in this way again. It may perhaps rely on prior knowledge of the characters a little too heavily, but it's a solid start nonetheless. 7/10

Writers: Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev & Andrew Osborne
Art: Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox & Robert Valley
Image $2.99

Stewart R: The writers decide to lead with a much needed relationship diagram this issue and to be honest I, and I imagine many other readers, could well have been lost without it. So intricate is the plot and cast laid out in the first two issues of this series that when this instalment starts by dealing with the threatening cliffhanger from the last chapter in brutal and bloody fashion and then zips off to see what another new character is up to I was left scratching my head a little and wondering just who we are actually supposed to be following in this story. I’m guessing that this is going to play itself out over a good few issues yet so it appears that the constant displays of psychotic or violent behaviours are there to show just how crazy and wild these various parties are, but even I’m starting to find myself fatigued by the convoluted threads, over-the-top interactions and endless supply of cliffhanger mysteries. The art is still effective at getting across the dirty deeds that unfold throughout but I’m afraid I’m eyeing this suspiciously now as it sits in my pull-list. 5/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Ibraim Roberson & Pete Pantazis
DC $2.99

James R: Well, this was unexpected! The Canadian comics genius seems to have kept this title close to his chest, but it's certainly been a welcome plus to the Flashpoint event! Even though this is a miniseries it's more an introduction to Lemire's recently-announced Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. which forms part of DC's epic reboot/relaunch-arama. This issue reads like a hybrid of Lemire's Sweet Tooth and B.P.R.D. and that's certainly no bad thing! Frankenstein is enlisted in a squad of experimentally-altered monsters to fight the Nazis (yep, them again!) and then subsequently discarded after WW2. Frankenstein and his team awake in the present in an alien world and are now on the run from their former handlers, seeking to find a cure for their condition. Lemire is a master at writing outsiders and he's a perfect fit for this book. This may just be the set-up but it's clear that in these 20 pages Lemire shows that Frankenstein should be one of the must-read books of DC's new era. And any book that features the exclamation 'Mein Gott!' will always get a thumbs up from me, fact! 8/10

Writer: Hervé Bourhis
Art: Rudy Spiessert
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Does the world really need another Star Wars parody? Well, it remains such an all-conquering behemoth in popular culture that it's unavoidable that people will keep returning to it, and to be fair there have been plenty of successfully amusing takes on the ‘Sacred Saga’ over the years (although possibly there've been more unsuccessful, unfunny stabs at finding comedic gold in the Star Wars movies). I'll have to be honest and say I did approach Space Warped with cynicism as I'm a huge fan of Star Wars and a lot of so-called humour directed at it in recent years has been a touch nasty and spiteful (to put it mildly). I don't have the patience for the haters regurgitating the same old arguments over and over again, so if I catch wind of any of that mentality I'll immediately turn away from it. Fortunately, Space Warped contains none of the negativity and completely won me over by being an affectionate (if irreverent) and funny spin on the well-known plot of the original movie. Set in a pseudo-medieval era it is very, very silly but by and large the jokes hit their marks. There's a campness to the art that accentuates the comedy and while, by its nature, it's predictable, there are enough unexpected moments and asides to keep things fresh. It ends rather abruptly, leading me to believe it was intended as a one-shot rather than a two-parter, but apart from that this is a hugely likeable addition to the long line of Star Wars parodies. 8/10

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Tan Eng Huat, Victor Olazaba, June Chung, Timothy Green II & Nathan Fairbairn
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: I tell you what, this main Annihilators story didn’t end all too badly. I enjoyed the inclusion of the Skrulls and DnA manage to make their involvement plausible by tying everything into the recent history of the doomed race as seen in the Annihilation and Secret Invasion events. The idea behind the Annihilators plan of action in the face of a disaster of galactic proportion is well conceived and while I’m not a big fan of Tan Eng Huat’s style he does a reasonable job of seeing out this series with a certain amount of spectacle. The Autumn solicitation of Annihilators: Earthfall has this creative team back together so I’ll be hoping for a step up in quality from Huat as we witnessed with Sepulveda when he worked with these two writers previously. In various reviews I’ve said the backup Rocket Raccoon and Groot story was where the heart of this title lay and that argument was supported once again this week. As the furry warrior and the tree-who-would-be-king try desperately to prevent a threat greater than Thanos from being released into the universe, Abnett and Lanning get to push the comedy button several times, be it through simple translation of Groot’s monophrasical language or allowing Timothy Green II to degrade Rocket a touch for the sake of the mission. The creative team give a worthy nod to the '80s Hulk appearance and miniseries from which these characters originated and I’m happy to hear that we’ll be getting more later this year. Overall this $4.99 effort deserves a 7/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross & Chris Chuckry
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: The curse of Unwritten strikes yet again! Long time readers of this blog will know that I feel that Carey and Gross' literary-themed adventure is a book verging on the schizophrenic - it's either the best book on the racks or really pedestrian. After the brilliant Leviathan arc, and a superlative one-shot featuring the cursed Pauly Bruckner, these last two issues have felt as flat as a map of Belgium. Tom Taylor and Co. fight to escape from the sinister auction of his father's belongings and we learn that Tom's origins are more mysterious than he could have ever imagined. It's written with flair as always but when you get used to the stellar heights this book can reach the issues that don't push the limits of the medium or provide mental stimulation feel... *whispers*...a little ho-hum. But will I be back next month? Absolutely - this book has got many more promising chapters in store and I just have to hope they’re more J.G. Ballard than J.K. Rowling! 6/10


Joe T said...

I agree 100% on Journey Into Mystery, really has been a pleasant surprise, and is the only reason I've been buying Fear Itself. My only criticism of the book would be the colours. Whilst the art is very nice & fantasy-esque, the colours can some times be a bit murky. I never imagined Thor as something that could franchise, and yet here we are.

Speaking of Thor, I finally got around to picking up Mighty Thor issue 2, and I almost left it for the latest issue of Uncanny, but man am I glad I picked this up! Whilst I liked the first issue, I didn't feel like I have gotten a whole issues worth, here all of that chances. Fraction finally gets a handle on the characters, and Coipel's artwork is GORGEOUS! Coipel drawing a Thor/Silver Surfer conflict could be destined to be greater than even the epic John Buscema drawn struggle from the first volume of Silver Surfer. Can't wait to see the arrival of Galactus in Asgard next month.

Picked up X-Men issue 12 from a few weeks back too. Whilst maybe not the most spectacular comic ever produced, it was an enjoyable read, with some very nice visuals, and reminded me of what made me fall in love with the franchise with the late 90's comics(controversial statement I know!) & the excellent animated series.

The rest of the week was dominated by DC's Flashpoint, and I've got to say I really really am surprised by how much I actually care for this event.

First up Flashpoint: Batman Knight Of Vengeance. This was a good read. I've never been one for the work of this artist(whose name I have currently forgotten!) but he did a really good job here- it was clear to see how much anger & resentment was in Thomas Wayne at all times, just from the art! The story itself was nicely done too, but I was expecting a bit more. It also seems to be painfully obvious who the Joker is, though I'm hoping there will be a twist. Even if not, this is still set to make a nice mini.

Onto Flashpoint: Deathstroke And The Curse Of The Ravager. WOW. Really wasn't expecting to enjoy this! The modern day (but somehow sill classic) pirate concept shouldn't work, and applying it to a character like Deathstroke seems even more ridiculous. Palmontti(spelt wrong?) does a wonderful job in making the comic believable(or as believable as any superhero comic can be), and accompanied with the visuals of Joe Bennett,provides a compelling tale of a hardened rogue, who just wants to find his daughter. This ties in very well to the second issue of Flashpoint, yet also manages to recount the events of the main series enough to be able to be picked up by anyone. If your reading Flashpoint, you need be reading this, and if your not, you should pick it up anyway. I was hoping this creative team was going to stick together for the Deathstroke ongoing coming September, but it's still nice to hear Bennett will be on art duties.

Joe T said...

Flashpoint Emperor Aquaman. Oh yes. There's just so much right with this issue I don't know where to begin. This is more than recounting the adventures of what's happening currently to Aquaman in Flashpoint, but also acts as a prequel to the main series, setting up the details of the conflict between the Atlanteans and the Amazons. Also starring in this book are Geo-Force(acting in his full royal duties) his sister, and a certain red-headed queen of the sea. Bedard writes the character well, and Adrian Syaf does an absolutely phenomenal job on the art, looking very much like Andy Kubert, whilst retaining enough of his own style. The creative team pull this off so well, I almost want to see them work on the ongoing as appose to Johns & Reis. At the very least, I want to see them work with this incarnation of Aquaman beyond the 3 issues(same for Palmonti/Bennett on Pirate Deathstroke). Whilst this is a very good tie in, I don't know how well it is set to stand on its own. At the moment it looks like it should be able to continue on, on it's lonesome, but I have a feeling it may have to tie in more as it goes along.

Flashpoint as an event,really has my interest, and keeps me excited, wanting more. Plus, free badges!

Tom P said...

Wow, Joe! You need a blog! Ha great stuff. Must admit Flashpoint has me buying a lot more DC than I ever have. It all seems accessible, fresh and exciting! Love the badges too!

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

not a bad job on your review Stewart R. as far as the Annihilators goes. i feel bad for Eng Huat everybody has been really giving him a hard time through out the series. i know you like RR & Groot but don't care for those characters at all and i'm plenty pissed that back story is gonna be back for Earth Fall which means i think i'll spend my $3.99 somewhere else.

Joe T said...

@Tom, haha, I was surprised when it wouldn't let me post it as one post!! I agree with you on Flashpoint too, and the post Flashpoint DCU will have me buying even more!